«The Shaman» press conference report
On October 4, 2020, the press conference dedicated to «The Shaman» by Russian director Andrey Osipov took place. The film participates in the Documentary Competition of the 42nd Moscow International Film Festival. Director Andrey Osipov and screenwriter Odelsha Agishev participated in the press conference.
Edited from newsreel archival footage, the film tells the story of the most famous ruler of the 20th century, Joseph Stalin, and explores how the dictator, who perpetrated horrible massacres for decades, managed to win the sincere, devoted love of 20 million people and still keep it burning in many hearts today. What is the main secret of Joseph Stalin?
«It all started with my love for newsreel footage. I enjoy being in the Krasnogorsk archive, I feel like an archaeologist – just as they find joy in discovering a piece of crockery with some ornament on it, you discover some frames from the past and feel that no one will ever see it, unless you include it in your film. TV documentary directors don’t often come to the archive: they’d be happy to, but don’t have enough time. And independent filmmakers rarely have money for it. You get energy and joy when being in touch with the past, with the people who were alive, happy, in love. They are long gone, but it is this space that gives you the depth of feeling while you are working with archival footage. I wanted to use some unusual, out-of-the-box, forgotten footage in this film. I dug through some newsreel outtakes, some footage that wasn’t shown decades ago – due to ideological and esthetic reasons. And I believe we found what we were looking for. The most important – we found a lot of magazine fragments showing the era our character lived in,» Andrey Osipov said.
Screenwriter Odelsha Agishev admitted he didn't want to take part in the project first, because he had seen a lot of frames before.
«Andrey was able to get me interested and convinced me that we could find something that is relevant nowadays. We started out by looking for some unusual material, we argued with Andrey a lot. There were about 14 versions of the script, Andrey says there were even more. And I think that the current script is the most precise, accessible and interesting,» Agishev said.
According to Andrey Osipov, in the very beginning they decided that it made no sense to show Stalin as a tyrant or a good-doer, as many films had done it before. Thus, «The Shaman» introduced a certain «mystical» plot line as well as the dramaturgical basis – an argument between a father and a son who have opposing views on Stalin.
«I think this film isn't only about Stalin, it's about our time and about us. It's also a statement in defense of an ordinary person who isn't to blame that he or she was born in the Stalin era. This person tried to live decently, attempted to find the meaning of life, why he or she appeared in the world at all. Still, no one is to blame for being born in turbulent and confusing times we talk about,» Andrey Osipov concluded.